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Napoleon's concordat (1801): text

In most of France this concordat lasted for just over a century. During that time, however, Alsace-Moselle became a part of Germany, and when it returned to France, it brought back Napoleon's concordat, though only for this territory, not the rest of the country. There it remains in force today.





“Signature of the Concordat between the French Government and His Holiness Pius VII for the re-establishment of the Catholic religion in France”.

On the left is Cardinal Consalvi, Papal Secretary of State, sent by the pope when negotiations bogged down. He is shown keeping his eye on the interests of the Church. Next is Archbishop Spina who, with Msgr. Caselli, on the other end, represented the Vatican in the early stages. Their opposite number was Abbot Bernier, at the front, who was immediately afterwards appointed by Napoleon Bishop of Orléans. In the centre are Napoleon's brother, Joseph, and Cretet, the French Councillor of State, who completed the negotiations with Consalvi.

Convention between His Holiness Pius VII and the French Government

Signed the 26th of Messidor in Year 9 of the French Republic [15 July 1801].
and ratified the 23rd of Fructidor [10 September 1801]

[Its enabling legislation was the Law of 18 Germinal Year X (8 April 1802]


His Holiness the sovereign Pontiff Pius VII, and the First Consul of the French Republic, have appointed as their respective plenipotentiaries,
His Holiness, His Eminence Monseigneur Hercul Consalvi, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Deacon of Sainte-Agathe ad Suburram, His Secretary of State; Joseph Spina, Archbishop of Corinth, Private Prelate of His Holiness, Assistant of the Pontifical Throne, and Father Caselli, theological consultant of His Holiness, are equally endowed with full powers in due and proper form ;
The First Consul, the citizens Joseph Bonaparte, Counsellor of State; Cretet, Counsellor of State, and Bernier, Doctor of Theology, Rector of Saint-Laud d’Angers, endowed with full powers ;
Who, after the exchange of their respective full powers, have concluded the following convention :

Convention between the French Government and His Holiness Pius VII.

The Government of the Republic recognises that the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion is the religion of the great majority of the French citizens.
His Holiness also recognises that this same religion has derived and now awaits once more the greatest benefit and lustre from the establishment of the Catholic worship in France and from the personal profession of it which the Consuls of the Republic are making.
Therefore, after this mutual recognition, as much for the benefit of religion as for maintaining internal peace, they have agreed upon the following:

Article 1

The Catholic, Apostolic and Roman religion will be freely exercised in France. Its worship will be public, and in conformity with such police regulations as the Government shall consider necessary to public peace.

Article 2

The Holy See, in cooperation with the government, will effect a new circumscription of the French dioceses.

Article 3

His Holiness will proclaim to the incumbents of the French bishoprics that for the benefit of peace and unity he confidently expects from them every kind of sacrifice, even that of their sees.

After this exhortation, if they should refuse this sacrifice required for the welfare of the Church, (a refusal, however, which His Holiness is not expecting), provision will be made for the government of the newly circumscribed dioceses by the new incumbents as follows:

Article 4

Within three months of publication of the bull of His Holiness the First Consul of the Republic will make appointments for the archbishoprics and bishoprics of the new circumscription. His Holiness will confer the canonical institution, following the forms established in relation to France before the changes of government.

Article 5

The nominations for bishoprics which will be vacated in the future, will also be made by the First Consul ; and the investiture will be given by the Holy See, in conformity with the preceding article.

Article 6

Before assuming their functions, the bishops will take directly at the hands of the First Consul, the oath of loyalty used before the change of government, expressed in the following terms :

I swear and promise before God, on the Holy Scriptures, to observe obedience and loyalty to the Government established by the Constitution of the French Republic. I also promise to have no dealings, to attend no council, to converse with no group, whether within or without, which would be contrary to the public peace; and if, in my diocese or elsewhere, I learn that something is being plotted to the detriment of the State, I will make it known to the Government.

Article 7

Ecclesiastics of the second rank will take the same oath at the hands of the civil authorities designated by the Government.

Article 8

A prayer in the following form will be repeated at the end of divine office in all Catholic churches in France :

Domine, salvam fac Rempublicam; [God save the Republic.]
Domine, salvos fac Consules. [God save the Consuls.]

Article 9

The bishops will make a new circumscription of the parishes of their dioceses, which will only be valid after the consent of the Government.

Article 10

The bishops will make nominations for the parish.
Their choice will be limited to those persons agreeable to the Government.

Article 11

Bishops will be permitted to have a chapter in their cathedral and a seminary for their diocese, without the Government being obliged to endow them.

Article 12

All metropolitan, cathedral, parish and other non-alienated churches needed for worship will be put at the disposition of the bishops.

Article 13

His Holiness, in the interest of peace and the happy re-establishment of the Catholic religion, declares that neither he nor his successors will disturb in any manner those who have acquired alienated ecclesiastical possessions, and that as a result the ownership of these possessions, the rights and the revenues that attach to them will remain incommutably in their possession or in that of their legal successors.

Article 14

The Government will assure a fitting maintenance for the bishops and the curates whose dioceses and parishes will be included in the new circumscription.

Article 15

The Government will also take measures so that French Catholics, if they wish, can act in favour of churches and foundations.

Article 16

His Holiness recognises for the First Consul of the French Republic the same rights and prerogatives which the former government enjoyed.,

Article 17

It is agreed between the contracting parties that, in the event that one of the successors of the present First Consul should not be Catholic, the rights and prerogatives mentioned in the above article and the nomination to bishoprics will be regulated in relation to him through a new convention.

The instruments of ratification will be exchanged in Paris within forty days.

Concluded at Paris, the 26th of Messidor in the Year 9 of the French Republic [15 July 1801].

Hercule, Cardinal Consalvi (L.S.) ; J. Bonaparte (L.S.) ; J. Arch. of Corinth (L.S.) ; Cretet (L.S.) ; F. Ch. Caselli (L.S.) ; Bernier (L.S.)




Convention entre sa Sainteté Pie VII, et le Gouvernement français

Translated by Muriel Fraser

* In the picture, from left to right: Cardinal Ercole Consalvi, Papal Secretary of State; Joseph Spina, Archbishop of Corinth (who. along with Caselli, represented the pope until Consalvi took over); Joseph Bonaparte (Napoleon's brother); Cretet, Councillor of State; Abbot Étienne Bernier (who represented the French Government in the preparatory negotiations, after which he was appointed by Napoleon Bishop of Orléans); and Carlo Francesco Msgr. Caselli.

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